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Biography - D - British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate
| Sir John Danvers | Richard Deane | Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex | Lord Digby | John Disbrowe | John Dixwell | Isaac Dorislaus | Robert Dormer, 1st Earl of Carnarvon | John Downes |
...John Downes, Lawyer, Regicide, 1609-c.1666
Born at Manby, Lincolnshire, Downes
studied at the Inner Temple
and was called to the bar in 1642.He became an auditor of the Duchy of Cornwall in 1633 and was elected MP for Arundel, Sussex, in December 1641.
The election result was contested by a client of the Catholic Earl of Arundel, but with the support of Puritan MPs of the Long Parliament, Downes' claim was upheld.During the First Civil War, he
directed income from lands belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall
to Parliament rather than to the King, and was active in the local administration of Sussex.Downes
was associated with the Independent faction in Parliament, but he
did not play an active role until after Pride's Purge in December 1648 when he
worked on the suppression of the protests against the purging of Parliament, and was appointed to the powerful army committee.
In January 1649, Downes
was appointed to the High Court of Justice.During the King's trial, he
was moved by the King's words and rose to protest, "Have we hearts of stone?"- for which he
was furiously rebuked by Cromwell.Downes
withdrew from the High Court, but despite his
signed the King's death warrant, later claiming that he
was forced to do so.He
remained active in the administration of the Commonwealth and was appointed to the Council of State
in 1651, but withdrew from public life after the establishment of the Protectorate.Downes
returned to power briefly in 1659 when the Rump Parliament was recalled.When he
realised that the Restoration was inevitable, he
published a vindication of his
actions, but this did not prevent his
arrest as a regicide in June 1660.He
was found guilty at his
trial in October 1660 and condemned to death, but the sentence was revoked because of Downes' defence that Cromwell had bullied him into signing the King's death warrant against his
spent the rest of his
life a prisoner in the Tower of London.